The “Apartheid Wall” is now a regular fixture in Western cities. Pro-Palestinian activists have taken to setting up replica West Bank Barriers, complete with watch towers and all, across high streets and university campuses. St James’s Church in London drew particular attention last winter for erecting an eight-metre high concrete wall around its Piccadilly building, at the cost of £30,000 (175,000 ILS). Now, on Israeli Apartheid Week in the UK, these walls are being rolled out across the country.
The sight of such a fixture is infuriating. The stunt appeals to people’s emotions, not reason: the wall is presented as the bastard child of East Germany and South Africa, and this mental association makes the case against the wall self-evident. In the minds of Israel’s detractors, Israel built an enormously expensive concrete eyesore for the sake only of a “land grab” of less than a tenth of the West Bank. It is as if the Second Intifada never happened, or else the brutal murder of over one thousand Israelis was minor detail, which could not possibly have been relevant to the reasons for building the wall.
The activists set up a straw man: they misrepresent Israel’s reasons, then pretend to knock them down, while in fact only refuting arguments they have fabricated. Straw walls should be just as easy to knock over as straw men. So as the Apartheid Wall is about to roll out into London, I’ve been thinking: what can you do to demonstrate the importance of the West Bank Barrier to protecting Israeli civilians from terrorism, and thereby underscore the absurdity of the whole Apartheid Wall campaign?
Here are some ideas.
1. Dress up as a suicide bomber. Throw on an explosive belt, wrap your face in a keffiyeh and grab an AK-47. Run towards the Wall at full speed, shouting, “Allahu Akbar!” When you hit the Wall, fall over and rub your head, muttering “D’oh!” in the style of Homer Simpson. Protest loudly about how the racist Zionist regime is impeding your freedom of movement. Hand out business cards with a link to your suicide video on YouTube. Lament that you miss the good old days in which Israel had to launch bloody armed incursions into the West Bank to prevent this sort of suicide attack, and how unfair it is that Israel is reducing its civilian casualties by non-violent means. For good effect, have a friend drive over an ambulance laden with explosives; cry that it is unfair to stop the vehicle for inspection. Sit down and insist you’re not moving until the wall is torn down, so you can finally blow yourself up and get back to class.
2. Recreate a bomb scene in a replica café. Set up tables, chairs and a bar with an espresso machine, then knock everything over, sprinkle shrapnel everywhere, splatter fake blood on the floor, sprinkle some crushed glass, and include some rubber limbs – including those of children – for good measure. Have friends sprawl on the floor and play dead; have others, acting as paramedics, declare them dead on the scene. When disconcerted passers-by ask what they can do help, say it’s too late, but what might be useful for next time is if they could physically block the suicide bombers using a… a… what’s the word…?
3. Hand out sweets in the street. When sceptical members of the public ask what the catch is, tell them you are celebrating a suicide bombing in a Tel Aviv nightclub. Say that you just want to share your joy with the world, but while you have their attention, would they be interested in volunteering their houses as missile silos? It would make it so much easier to gain international sympathy if you could use human shields to deflect criticism of your human rights abuses.
But this would all be rather distasteful. In fact, a “Palestinian Terrorism Week” would be grotesque, disgusting and rather quite outrageous. Indeed, any representation of the atrocities that made this ugly wall necessary would be in bad taste: one could not make the message visual without also being graphic, or graphic without being crass.
And therein lies the inescapable problem. Israel has too much self-respect to expect its activists to appeal to the court of public opinion through sob stories. Instead, pro-Israel activists rely on Hasbara: literally, ‘explanation’. Israel counters the image of the cold, hard wall with cold, hard facts, because the truth of the matter would be uglier still. Perhaps Israel is losing the battle for hearts and minds because appealing to hearts would be too painful and degrading.
It’s a small price to pay for a modicum of dignity.